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Appalachian Novelist Robert Morgan Speaks at Davidson

September 21, 2000
CONTACT: Bill Giduz

By Jimmy Swansbrough '04

Davidson College welcomed Robert Morgan back to campus on Tuesday, September 19. Morgan, who taught at Davidson as the McGee Professor of Writing for spring semester 1998, spoke to an eager audience in the College Union's 900 Room and read from his critically-acclaimed novel Gap Creek.
A large crowd filled the 900 Room for Robert Morgan's talk

Morgan said much of the work on Gap Creek was completed during his stay at Davidson. The novel is written in the vernacular of a Southern woman in the late 19th century, and based on the early lives of his maternal grandparents and their hardships living on Gap Creek in South Carolina.

Morgan read from three sections of the novel. The first section, set during the winter of 1899, placed newlyweds Julie and Hank in their Gap Creek home during a cold winter's flash flood. The audience listened attentively as Morgan graphically described the torrential flood waters through Julie's voice, and her harrowing escape through the darkness to safety in the barn. The second section portrayed Julie facing the labors of giving birth on her own.
Robert Morgan at the podium

Morgan credited his ability to depict Julie's pain to his wife's own labors and the Lamaze classes he attended in preparing for the births of his own two daughters. "The rest," he joked, "I just made up."

In the final section, Hank and Julie mollify an inebriated man named Timmy who badgers the family every time he gets drunk. Morgan related how such stories -- strewn in abundance throughout the novel -- were based on tales his grandfather and father would tell him when he was a young boy. The only difficulty to crafting a novel out of such stories, Morgan claims, was perfecting the dialogue.

Since 1969, Morgan has published four books of fiction and nine volumes of poetry. Gap Creek, the sequel to Morgan's 1995 novel The Truest Pleasure, was named as last February's Oprah Winfrey Book Club book of the month.
Professor of English Tony Abbott had the honor of introducing Morgan to the crowd.

Among the awards Morgan has received for his literary achievements are the North Carolina Award for Literature, and the James G. Hanes Poetry Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He currently resides in Freeville, N.Y., and teaches at Cornell University.

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